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ESPN host pulled off air after Barack Obama and vaccine rant

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Presenter forced to apologise for saying sports channel was ‘sick’, among other controversial remarks

ESPN host pulled off air after rant about Barack Obama’s race and vaccine mandates

Sage Steele, a presenter for ESPN, has been removed from the channel’s programming after she ranted about Barack Obama’s race and vaccine mandates for Covid, which she said were “sick”.

The sports presenter told Jay Cutler’s ‘Uncut’ podcast last week that while she respected those who took vaccines for Covid, “to mandate it is sick, and it is scary to me in many ways.”

She added: “But I have a job, and a job that I love and frankly a job that I need”.

An ESPN source reportedly told Front Office Sports on Tuesday that Ms Steele will not be on air and will be removed from a number of programmes that she hosts, including the midday “SportsCentre”, for a week.

It was also reported that she had tested positive for Covid, although it remains unconfirmed.

It follows backlash against Ms Steele for criticising Disney and ESPN’s mandate on Covid vaccinations for employees, and for suggesting that Mr Obama should not not identify as Black because he was raised by a white mother and grandmother.

She told the ‘Uncut’ podcast: “I’m like, ‘Well, congratulations to the president. That’s his thing.’ I think that’s fascinating considering his Black dad was nowhere to be found, but his white mum and grandma raised him, but hey, you do you. I’m going to do me”.

Ms Steele was later called out on Twitter for “clown behaviour”, with The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill writing that “on top of thinking former President Obama shouldn’t identify as Black because he didn’t have a relationship with his Black father, Sage Steele also thinks female journalists who dress a certain way ‘know what you’re doing when you’re putting that outfit on.’”

The reporter referred to Ms Steele saying that aspiring female sports journalists who dressed a certain way “know what you’re doing”, when facing harassment from male athletes.

The presenter reportedly apologised for her remarks, and according to ESPN, said: “I know my recent comments created controversy for the company, and I apologise”.

“We are in the midst of an extremely challenging time that impacts all of us, and it’s more critical than ever that we communicate constructively and thoughtfully.”

ESPN said in a statement that “At ESPN, we embrace different points of view — dialogue and discussion makes this place great. That said, we expect that those points of view be expressed respectfully, in a manner consistent with our values, and in line with our internal policies.”

Ms Steele has worked at ESPN for almost 15 years, and was due to host the espnW: Women + Sports Summit starting on 18 October.

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